Four Guys One Hammer

I was walking to work the other day and a thought struck me, as is so often the case.

This particular thought was about efficiency and the working practices of various construction businesses that I’ve been observing recently.

Now that I think about it, I’ve been thinking the thought that eventually struck me for a long time… long enough that I had the opportunity to get out of the way and avoid having it in the first place.

But now that I have had it, I can’t get it out of my head… and it’s really annoying.

Anyway, back to my thought.

I live in Edinburgh so I’ve had the opportunity to look at construction for a long time and will continue to have those same opportunities for a long time to come because of… the Trams.

To be fair, there now seems to be a bit of progress and at least Princes Street (the main shopping thoroughfare) has been dug up again and put back together; so hopefully that’s it.

But there’s still plenty of work going on elsewhere… or is there?

It began to encroach on my consciousness as a walked past the tram works the other day that everywhere there were four blokes standing around in little knots.  It’s always four blokes and the little groups all have the same profile:

  1. Young bloke in shirt (and sometimes tie) with smartish trousers tucked into the tops of welly boots.  Always has a clipboard and looks on intently
  2. Middle aged bloke with deep suntan, often with tattoos up his arms and a creased face, leaning on a shovel and smoking a cigarette.  Looks disinterested unless he’s larking about with another similar type
  3. Older man with badly stained polo shirt stretched taught across a swelling belly.  Often standing with young bloke mentioned in item 1
  4. Younger man, slightly scruffy and usually hitting a chisel with a hammer, although sometimes it can be a different tool.  Seems to be the only one actually doing anything!

I then began cross referencing the trams with other construction sites and the pattern is always repeated.  Some guys were putting up an 8 foot fence to block the view of a building site where a B & Q has recently been demolished.  Same group make-up… except it wasn’t a hammer, it was a nail gun.

Whatever.  The thing is it seems as though only 25% of the work force are actually doing anything.

I’m sure that this just isn’t the case (at least I think I’m sure) and it’s just my over worked imagination gland… but what if it isn’t?

Please, someone out there tell me that I’m wrong.

2 comments for “Four Guys One Hammer

  1. 6 September, 2012 at 08:14

    You are living in dream land Mr Lambert! Imagine the ratios if it had been a council ‘work party’. Notice the use of the term ‘party’, not my decision to use it, but a term frequently used nowadays. A council ratio would have been nearer 10% pretending to work and 90% watching. Come on, be fair to these workers, they are a bit like British Rail of old, getting there!

    • 7 September, 2012 at 08:36

      Mr Tilley

      I take you point and I particularly like the reference to BR of old… I also remember Clunk Click every trip.


      The point I was making is that the ratios never seem to alter… and it’s started to encroach on my consciousness (such that it is). I was walking the growler yesterday lunchtime and someone was having an extension built and there was the ratio again; with the same characters.

      I think I may have stumbled on the most important mathematical concept since Douglas Adams explained Bistromatics in the Hitch hikers guide tot he galaxy.

      Thanks for your comment – love them all!

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